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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

And Two Makes it Real

"The only thing harder than getting your first book published, is getting your second book published."

I heard that ages ago, long before my first book was complete, years before it was even published. Once I began submitting manuscripts to editors and agents, I thought of that saying and grumbled, "I'd love to have that worry."

The reality of it hit me like a concrete wall of self-doubt as I started the submission process all over again with my second novel. The "no's"  arrived by post and email and those same feelings I had in my early days of writing descended, coupled with a new worry...

What if I was a one hit wonder?

What if Spaghetti was a fluke? A bit of good luck? Was it possible all I had in my was one good story?

My normally positive attitude was almost flattened. Almost.

The reason I was able to continue submitting, revising, and rewriting was because I made a few very smart decisions a few years ago. (I make many ridiculous decisions on an ongoing basis, so when my choices work out, they're quite a whoopdeedoo to me.)

The first brilliant thing I did was take a writing workshop led by Anita Daher. Not only did I learn more about writing in those eight weeks than I had in the previous eight years, Anita became my first writing mentor and a great friend. And to boot,  I met the most amazing circle of writers.

That's when I made my second most stupendous decision. I stuck with those talented women and we formed a writing group - a sisterhood of sorts. Seven years later, "The Anita Factor" is still together, meeting every second Thursday at McNally's, supporting each other through the dark hours of self doubt and celebrating each other's glory days of publications and award nominations.

Sheldon Oberman
The second wise move I made was to apply for The Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program run through The Manitoba Writers' Guild. When I was accepted, I had no idea that I would be fortunate enough to be paired with Carolyn Gray, then Executive Director of The Guild and incredible playwright. Under her guidance, I ditched fourteen of my darling chapters, replacing them with better written, faster paced scenes that actually contained plot! Yes, plot peeps. Every story needs one.

The final thing I did was listen to my inner voice. The voice that sometimes is hard to hear over the busyness of daily life. The voice that gets pushed to the bottom of my to-do list of laundry, work, and kids' soccer practices.The voice that knows me best.

I think it may be my ego. Or id. Or conscience? 
(Yes, that is a Finding Nemo reference. Of course.)

I'm not a student of Karma, or meditation, or Disney movies, so I'm not sure what it is called. But, whatever it is, that little voice that knows both my wildest dreams and worst fears, said to me long ago, "You can't stop writing, so don't ever try, sister." 

Even though that wee voice has whispered, chanted, and even shouted those words, for over a decade now, I have tried to stop writing. On occasion. But only when it all seemed too hard, the rejection hurt too much. However, abstaining from writing, not losing myself in the story-worlds of my imagination, hurt even more.

So, I've stopped the stopping and I just kept on writing. because only if you're writing and polishing your words can the good stuff happen, like having my second book, Forever Julia, picked up by Great Plains Publications in 2015. And man, two published books is the perfect way to squash self-doubt.

In fact, it makes me wonder what three books would feel like...

             Forever Writing